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BBC News – Higgs boson: The poetry of subatomic particles

Peter Higgs visiting the CMS detector at CERN

The Higgs boson, which scientists at Cern appear to be homing in on after 45 years, gets its name, as everyone knows, from British physicist Peter Higgs, one of the first to propose its existence.

But what about the other part of this great name – boson? This, in fact, is also named after a physicist, the Indian contemporary of Einstein, Satyendra Nath Bose.

Physicists from Russia to California have given lots of curious and sometimes poetic names to the subatomic particles discovered over the last century or so. Here are 10 of them.

1. Higgs boson / God particle

The Higgs boson, proposed by Peter Higgs in 1964, if it exists, is what gives matter mass. It has also been named the name God particle by American physicist Leon Lederman. “He wanted to refer to it as that ‘goddamn particle’ and his editor wouldn’t let him,” Higgs told the Guardian. So “God particle” it was.

2. Quark

A fundamental particle that combines to form a range of other particles, including the particles that make up the atomic nucleus – protons and neutrons.

The term was drawn from James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake by American physicist Murray Gell-Mann (born 1929) in 1962. He had already come up with the sound, and was thinking of spelling it “kwork“.

“Then, in one of my occasional perusals of Finnegans Wake, by James Joyce, I came across the word ‘quark’ in the phrase ‘Three quarks for Muster Mark’,” he explained in his book the Quark and the Jaguar.

3. Hadron

A particle made of quarks. The name was proposed by the Russian theoretical physicist Lev Okun (born 1929) in 1962. He wrote: “In this report I shall call strongly interacting particles ‘hadrons’… the Greek hadros signifies “large”, “massive”, in contrast to leptos which means “small”, “light”. I hope that this terminology will prove to be convenient.” It is in Cern’s Large Hadron Collider, a machine in which hadrons are accelerated to high speeds and smashed together, that footprints of the Higgs boson have been spotted.

4. Boson

A class of particles often associated with forces as the carriers of the force. They obey Bose-Einstein statistics, named after the Indian physicist, Satyendra Nath Bose (1894-1974). The suffix “-on” is Greek, and became standard for newly discovered particles a century ago.

via BBC News – Higgs boson: The poetry of subatomic particles.

Strange Random Particle Quote:

“Those who are not shocked when they first come across quantum theory cannot possibly have understood it.” ― Niels Bohr, Essays 1932-1957 on Atomic Physics and Human Knowledge

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